By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Ryan Nie’s season began with training camp in Fresno. Then a one-game stop in Elmira. A two-month stint in Bakersfield was next. Followed by a trade to Cincinnati.
Now, it appears, the former record-breaking Johnstown Chiefs goaltender has settled in quite nicely with the North Division-leading Cyclones.
Nie and Cincinnati will face the Chiefs at 7 p.m. on Friday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“I was traded for the second time this year. It kind of got frustrating. But I came into Cincinnati, and (coach) Chuck Weber gave me the opportunity to play as long as I continued to play well,” Nie said Thursday night. “The guys seemed to respond when I got there, and we’ve been on a roll. As of late, we’ve been playing really well.”
Since joining the Cyclones on Jan. 7, Nie is 13-3-0 and the defending Kelly Cup champions are back at the top of the North.
“Ryan is a good goalie. He’s done well for them,” said Chiefs coach Ian Herbers, who signed Nie last season, when the goalie won a Chiefs single-season record 29 games. “He’s found a home. He was moved around a couple times. He’s found a situation where he can succeed. Our guys who played with him last year know his strengths and weaknesses. Our guys know they need to get pucks to the net.”
Nie also knows the Chiefs as well as the venerable War Memorial Arena and its unusual quirks.
“I played enough games there to know the ins and outs and all the crazy bounces the old arena has,” Nie said. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s kind of in the back of your mind a little bit playing against guys you played with last year. It’s fun to be out there chirping and playing around. But at the same time it’s a tight playoff race. We need to come in and get the job done.”
The Cyclones have 71 points, two more than the Chiefs, who are tied for second with Wheeling. Trenton is a point back in fourth and Elmira is two behind in fifth.
Herbers said there is no animosity between the Chiefs and their former netminder. Nie opted not to return to Johnstown, instead seeking either an AHL deal or a more lucrative contract than he’d make in Johnstown, Herbers said.
Nie and Fresno parted ways before the regular season began.
He played in one game with Elmira, and had six wins with Bakersfield before being dealt back to the North Division.
“It worked out for both sides,” Herbers said. “We ended up getting Kris Mayotte who has done very well and has had a ton of American League exposure and has done very well at that level.”
Mayotte has 19 wins with the Chiefs and was the American Conference’s starter in the ECHL All-Star Game. The Pittsburgh native spent about a month in Hershey before he returned to Johnstown, winning one game. Last week Bridgeport summoned Mayotte back to the AHL, and he’s expected to spend at least another weekend at that level.